Johnny Be Good...?

By Ron Yurko

A quarterback that needs no introduction, Johnny Manziel has stepped into Tim Tebow’s role as the polarizing face of the NFL. Except, instead of praying on the field… he did this But this is a sports analytics site, so enough with Johnny’s ridiculous ego and time to dive into projecting Manziel’s rookie season.

Projecting the performance of a quarterback in his first NFL season is an incredibly difficult task- just read the work done by the experts at Football Outsiders on the matter. Nevertheless, I will attempt to do so. First, I decided to compare how Manziel’s stats in his final year of college stacked up against all other SEC QBs drafted in the Saban Era (2007 – present, since Saban became Alabama’s head coach) and their final college seasons. And just for kicks, I throw in the last two failed quarterbacks the Browns picked, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden:

Player Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD Int Draft Year
Johnny Football 300 429 69.9 4114 9.6 37 13 2014
JaMarcus Russell 232 342 67.8 3129 9.1 28 8 2007
Erik Ainge 325 519 62.6 3522 6.8 31 10 2008
Andre Woodson 327 518 63.1 3709 7.2 40 11 2008
Matt Flynn 202 359 56.3 2407 6.7 21 11 2008
Matthew Stafford 235 383 61.4 3459 9.0 25 10 2009
Tim Tebow 213 314 67.8 2895 9.2 21 5 2010
Jonathan Crompton 224 384 58.3 2800 7.3 27 13 2010
Cam Newton 185 280 66.1 2854 10.2 30 7 2011
Ryan Mallet 266 411 64.7 3869 9.4 32 12 2011
Greg McElroy 222 313 70.9 2987 9.5 20 5 2011
Tyler Wilson 249 401 62.1 3387 8.4 21 13 2013
Colt McCoy 332 470 70.6 3521 7.5 27 12 2010
Brandon Weeden 409 565 72.4 4727 8.4 37 13 2012

Obviously Manziel’s passing numbers are some of the best from the SEC in the last seven years. But of this list, only Stafford and Newton have established themselves as starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Johnny’s numbers are remarkable and arguably better than both, but one has to wonder how much of a quarterback’s NFL success is dependent on the team that drafts him. Would Ryan Mallet have already been labeled a bust like Colt McCoy if he was the Browns’ starting QB in the same situation? Consider how Matthew Stafford has benefited from throwing to Megatron in his career (and also from attempting many more passes per game than most QB’s).

Once Johnny Football inevitably takes the starting role from Brian Hoyer, he will be attempting to break the Browns QB curse. But this curse probably has more to do with the system rather than the QB himself, as the Browns consistently field a team of poor receivers. This year will be among the worst with the absence of Josh Gordon, now consisting of Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, and their tight end Jordan Cameron (does anyone know the name of their 3rd WR…?). And as Manziel’s preseason numbers show (30 of 58 for 296 passing yards and 2 TDs; 12 rushes for 88 yards and 1 TD) he will be inconsistent, make dumb, 21 year-old decisions, but sometimes show flashes of brilliance. I think a safe projection for Manziel is numbers similar to Colt McCoy’s first two seasons with the Browns: around 2500 passing yards, 58% completion percentage, 15 passing TD, 10 interceptions, and maybe 200 rushing yards on the side. Whenever the Browns decide their hometown QB, Brian Hoyer, is not a hometown hero and hand the reigns over to Manziel one is thing is definitely for certain- ESPN will stop talking about Lebron James (for at least a few minutes) and cover everything Johnny Football. As a football fan, I can’t wait to see if Johnny Football will be any good.

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